A few years back I was able to blog through the entire Letter to the Philippians, which was a long and arduous journey. But rich and rewarding too. I hope to do the same with the Letter to the Ephesians. Let me start with Klyne Snodgrass’s introductory words in his commentary on Ephesians to whet our appetite.
“Pound for pound” Ephesians may well be the most influential document ever written. Within the history of Christianity, only the Psalms, the Gospel of John, and Romans have been so instrumental in shaping the life and thought of Christians, but all three of these works are much longer than the few pages of this letter. Ephesians has justly been described as “the Switzerland of the New Testament,” “the crown and climax of Pauline theology,” and “one of the divinest compositions of man.” The explanation of the gospel and of life with Christ provided here is powerful and direct. If read receptively, it is a bombshell.
This letter is the most contemporary book in the Bible. Apart from a few terms and the treatment of slavery, Ephesians could have been written to a modern church. It is about us. It describes human beings, their predicament, sin, and delusion, but much more it describes God’s reaching out to people to recreate and transform them into a new society. Most of the letter is about two subjects: power and identity. It describes the power God’s Spirit gives for living. It shows who we really are without Christ and who we become both individually and corporately with Christ. It is about how we understand ourselves and how we can get along with each other and God. The focus on God’s new society also makes Ephesians one of the most important works for understanding the church.
Modern society is in a mess. For all the good things we enjoy, we seem to have lost all sense of definition and direction. Who are we really, and what holds us together? We all have a need to belong, but to what? Is there anything that merits our commitment? This life is hard. Where will we find the resources to make it? Our society’s moral guidelines have been erased. Are there boundaries and values that function as legitimate guides? What is a human life for anyway?
The church is supposed to have answers to such questions, but in our day it has lost both its direction and its voice. The lives of Christians are too often no different from the lives of non-Christians. The gospel has been diluted to ineffectual pabulum and so garbled by cultural trappings that it bears little resemblance to the pages of the New Testament. The Western church, including the American church, is not the — or even a — New Testament church.
We need nothing less than a new reformation, and Ephesians is the document to bring it about. This short little letter is a surprisingly comprehensive statement about God and his work, about Christ and the gospel, about life with God’s Spirit, and about the right way to live.
-From Klyne Snodgrass, The NIV Application Commentary: Ephesians, pp. 17-18.
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